Last month, New Hampshire lawmakers enacted an “early-offer” system for medical malpractice claims where the potential claimant decides whether or not to request an “early-offer.” Now the ball in is in the providers’ court and they can decide whether or not to make an offer. The key to the system is that it is purely voluntary for both physicians and claimants.
If an early offer is requested by the claimant and the provider chooses to make an offer, the provider’s offer must cover “economic” losses including: medical costs and lost wages, past and future, plus reasonable attorney’s fees. You will notice that pain and suffering is not included in the minimum offer the physician must make. Instead, physicians making an offer must add a modest sum based on injury-severity measures that both sides can look up in a standard reference.
The claimant can either choose to accept or reject this offer. Should they choose to reject it, they must WIN at least 125% of the early offer at trial, otherwise, they will have to pay the defendant-physician’s attorney’s fees.
The law suggests that claimants seek the advice of an attorney before deciding whether or not to pursue a lawsuit or an early offer. If the claimant chooses not to request an early offer, s/he can even seek a “neutral” adviser, at the expense of the defendant’s attorneys. However, if the claimant goes down this route and does not seek an offer, the physician named in the suit has the right to request a physical exam and will then have 90 days to respond.
The idea behind the early-offer system is that patients who would normally sue would happily accept compensation for expenses incurred, if the money were to be paid quicker, rather than waiting several years to get paid after a potentially lengthy trial.
Will patients elect this system? Will physicians with greater influence win in this system or will patients thrive?
What do you think? I would love to hear from you! I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.